There’s a lot going on in the world
today. My TV stays off
for morning’s sake.
Another plane. Child. Innocent.
Betrayal. And that flag hanging
over it all.
I almost feel guilty when sorrow engulfs me.
How does an old paw print
eclipse any of that?
But my sphere spins slowly, the breeze
carries ghosts, familiar barks—
a smell of wet coats.
Until I saw those wasted hands,
brittle as chalk, I hadn’t thought
how fast the years make ghosts.
I heard them once called brawler’s paws.
For me, they were always more:
cobras, poised to strike.
But his brawling days are gone now;
I could kill him with a pillow,
if I cared enough to try.
Thin sheets press tightly to a bed
more empty than full, his body broken
like the promises of childhood.
Haunted eyes betray last thoughts
of a dim path, spiralling down.
He hopes to make amends.
“Forgiven?” he croaks,
barely there, as always,
and I’m wishing that I wasn’t.
With the last rays of day as witness,
I turn my back with purpose
and hear the silence roar.
In a late-night bar I catch my reflection
swimming in a glass of bourbon;
but I’m staring at a ghost.
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First published in Writers’ Forum Magazine issue 163, April 2015 – first place
long years I mourn
her loss –
her laugh with each
her smile in each
remember school days and how we would play
like there was no tomorrow?
now the castles we made
are the price we must pay
or flounder in oceans of sorrow
roaming wild and free, building houses in trees
as worlds waltzed to discordant tunes
like a zephyr through grass,
gilded summer days passed;
left us flayed under Cheshire moons
wooden sword fights and valiant knights;
pirates, the Pan and his Bell,
faded from dreams,
rowed ungentle streams,
to where the real monsters dwell
I’ve climbed faraway trees, seen fair Honah-Lee,
never never thought I’d grow old
now the pied piper calls —
before the last curtain falls,
leafless, I’ll trip into the wold.
First published by Wolf Publishing June, 2015
Clock hands circle lethargically. Heels
clack, a distant speaker hisses –
I shift on a green vinyl chair, eyes
trace an arc from clock to window.
Outside, a succubus sun
kisses children at play.
At my father’s bedside, both of us
wish I wasn’t. I despise myself
for watching the minutes, and him
for teaching me to. Broken
conversations keep awkward vigil
for something long dead.
Over the mountains
and down to the sea,
you must come now
if you hope to break free.
No time to mourn
for Autumn’s red bowers;
the light we once made,
now darkness devours.
I can play you
the rhymes of the kingdom,
I can sing you
the songs that you know;
but we must take wing
from this darkened halo –
we must take wing
for a devil wind blows.
Break from your prison
of urban malaise;
run to the ocean,
fly from your home.
I can’t promise you
that we’ll make it –
but take my hand
and I’ll never let go.
– Ryan Stone
After all the years, the heart-shaped promises,
linked pinkies, a Ponts des Arts love lock
one Spring, it has come now to this –
a sterile room with its too-small-for-two bed,
plastic flowers, faint smell of urine.
She stands bedside, stroking and humming,
remembers spooning one night by the sea.
The setting sun caresses white hair,
tremors become twitches,
Pa, I see you in your shed–
unaware of dusk settling
over your garden, painting
your pink crabapple blossoms
grey. I see you bend, to squint
at some small imperfection
marring the wooden soldier
you’ve spent the whole day carving,
hands slow-dancing to a tune
no-one else can hear. Later
Ma will shake her head, dismiss
your need for perfect contours
and seamless joins as foolish,
not understanding a man,
a soldier or a husband
is only ever as strong
as his weakest part.
It’s gravity, baby
and that’s how it started —
three whispered words
under the bleachers,
thrown into orbit.
Almost as quickly,
those starburst nights
of lying thisclose
There’s a point
whether to brace
or just to surrender –
for a heartbeat or two
it feels like you’re floating,
then the ground rushes up
to show you how endings
can sound like beginnings